Dear [Florida] Senator,
On behalf of the NRDC and its 1.2 million members and e-activists, we urge you to support an ambitious renewable portfolio standard (RPS) of 20% by 2020 as policy tool to create jobs, increase Florida's energy independence, sustainability, and security, insulate ratepayers from energy price shocks and protect Florida's natural environment. Twenty-eight other states have enacted an RPS to strategically position their states to benefit from the coming clean energy economy. There are many reasons why Florida should do the same.
The current economic crisis has hit Florida with a record unemployment rate and exposed a need to expand the State's economic base. The good news is that the renewable energy community is poised to expand that base by investing in Florida and creating jobs to meet the RPS targets. A review of recent economic reports indicates that renewable energy sources such as solar and biomass will create substantially more new jobs than conventional or nuclear energy sources. One megawatt of energy (enough to power about 600 homes) creates between fifteen to thirty direct solar jobs. Biomass-generated electricity creates approximately nine direct jobs per megawatt and 85 percent of the money spent on producing home-grown biomass power stays within a 75-mile radius of the plant - stimulating the local economy.
Additionally, of the three main electric power choices facing Florida - development of natural gas power plants, nuclear plants, and renewable energy - the renewable option ultimately costs the consumer less. Statewide, 2006 average residential rates were 41 percent higher than in 2000, due to our over-reliance on conventional fossil fuel generation sources. Without a meaningful RPS, fossil fuels, especially natural gas with its high risk of significant price volatility, will continue to account for the vast majority of Florida's electric generating fuels: for example, the PSC's Review of 2008 Ten-Year Site Plans, shows that in 2017, natural gas is projected to account 54.35% of total Florida electricity supply, and the total for all fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) is 79.11% [see Figure 1]. Moreover, construction costs estimates for nuclear reactors have tripled in the last several years and are expected to increase - placing enormous financial risk on the shoulders of Floridians.
Figure 1: Past and Projected Electricity Generation Sources for Florida. Source: Florida PSC 2008
The Florida Legislature has already taken actions to ensure that new nuclear energy capacity will be built to help meet the State's long term energy needs. Let's not accept the notion being advanced by utility lobbyists that nuclear reactors should be an eligible resource to meet the 20 percent renewable energy goal. To do so would divert investment away from renewable resources and the associated job creation benefit.
Renewable energy protects electric customers and Florida's economy by diversifying the State's energy mix. Solar resources have no fuel cost and capital construction costs are dropping every year. Likewise, biomass-generated electricity has a stable fuel source and hedges fuel price risk for consumers. This diversification of our energy mix can be obtained with a moderate rate impact, of about 4% on customer bills, which is significantly lower than the rate impacts suffered by Florida citizens since 2000 from conventional utility sources of energy.
Moreover, Florida is uniquely positioned to take advantage of renewable energy because of its vast solar and biomass resources. According to a recent report, Florida Renewable Energy Potential Assessment prepared by Navigant Consulting for the Florida Public Service Commission and the Governor's Energy Office, Florida can reach 24 percent renewables by 2020 [See Figure 2]. Realizing the benefits of renewable energy simply requires that the right policies be in place.
Figure 2: Florida RPS Economic Assessment Potential. Source: Florida PSC 2008
Now is the time to support an RPS rule that will provide 20 percent of Florida's electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020. This RPS rule and goal will stimulate meaningful renewable energy investment and associated job creation in Florida, while greatly enhancing Florida's energy independence and sustainability and improving our environmental quality.
NRDC Renewable Energy Action Team